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By Michael Bastasch
The battle over the fate of the Paris agreement has reached new heights as groups make last-minute efforts to petition President Donald Trump on the deal to cut global carbon dioxide emissions.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a libertarian think tank, launched a campaign to hold Trump to his promise to withdraw from the Paris agreement. CEI is circulating a petition and video as part of a social media ad that began Tuesday.
“Failure to withdraw from the Paris Climate Treaty will make President Trump’s plans to undo Obama’s climate agenda vulnerable to legal challenges,” Myron Ebell, director of energy and environment policy at CEI, said in a statement.
“The President should not listen to Washington’s Swamp, but rather keep his campaign promise to get the United States out of the Paris Climate Treaty and send it to the Senate for a vote,” said Ebell, who headed Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
White House officials will meet Tuesday to discuss whether to keep Trump’s promise to “cancel” the Paris agreement, which went into effect in 2016. Top officials are split on the issue. Chief Strategist Steve Bannon opposes staying in the Paris agreement, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Ivanka Trump, adviser Jared Kushner and Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn support it.
Corporate America seems to have lined up squarely behind staying in the Paris agreement. Companies from Starbucks to oil giant ExxonMobil and coal producer Cloud Peak Energy are asking Trump to stay in the agreement.
Cheniere Energy, a natural gas company, wrote to White House adviser David Banks Monday, urging the administration to stay party to the Paris agreement. Cheniere’s executive vice president Anatol Feygin argued the U.S. would be in a better position to compete globally by staying in the agreement.
President Barack Obama joined the Paris agreement in 2016 without approval from the Senate. He committed the U.S. to cutting greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025.
The oil industry sees the Paris agreement as a boon to natural gas production and exports, which helps their bottom line. Major U.S. coal producers want the Trump administration to stay in the agreement and push for more subsidies for emissions capture technology for coal-fired power plants.
Companies backing the Paris agreement seem confident. Industry sources told Axios they expect the Trump administration to “remain” in the agreement, but reduce the commitments Obama put forward.
One source told Axios the “prevailing expectation” is Trump at the very least won’t formally withdraw from the agreement.
If true, that adds more urgency to CEI’s petition. The think tank argues staying in the Paris agreement would be a huge mistake and asked Trump to send the agreement to the Senate where it will almost certainly be voted down.
Trump recently ordered the EPA and the Department of the Interior to review Obama-era regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and oil and gas operations. But even with the “teeth” of America’s commitment removed, it’s not enough to avoid the negative politics of the deal argue CEI scholars.
“Above and beyond the unconstitutional manner of its adoption, the Paris Climate Treaty is inherently toxic to American institutions of self-government,” wrote CEI senior fellows Chris Horner and Marlo Lewis.
“Failure to withdraw also invites climate policy litigation because joining the Paris Agreement tacitly affirms the preferred narrative that climate change is humanity’s greatest peril and ‘inaction’ threatens millions of lives,” Horner and Lewis wrote.